Oil prices rose further in the first week of May, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered its verdict on Iran's nuclear programme. Some calm was provided, however, by an unexpectedly bearish set of US stock data. Spot Brent was trading at $74.28 a barrel on 3 May, compared with $74.09 a week earlier.
The IAEA released its report on Tehran on 28 April, concluding that the Islamic republic had failed to heed calls to halt uranium enrichment and that 'further measures as may be necessary' could be taken. The country played its own part in raising prices, as Majlis member Ahmad Tavakoli warned that prices could reach $120 a barrel if sanctions were imposed and deputy oil minister Nejad Hosseinian said that the cost of a barrel might spike to $100 during the coming northern hemisphere winter.
Other political tensions continued to worry traders. Efforts to make peace between the government and rebels in Nigeria have failed, and militants in early May threatened further violence against foreign oil companies. About a quarter of the country's capacity remains shut off. And Bolivia - Latin America's second largest producer of natural gas - declared plans to nationalise its hydrocarbons industry.
US stock data for the week to 28 April was positive. Crude stocks rose by 0.5 per cent to 346.6 million barrels, while gasoline supplies - the main source of market concern - also climbed, by 1 per cent to 202.7 million barrels.